Adelaide’s Meg Hansen was one of four photographers who travelled to developing countries to capture images for a new World Vision book that focuses on the bond between mother and child.
“Aside from providing beautiful images, it’s all about raising awareness around the issues of maternal and child health in the Third World,” Hansen says of the book Vision of Hope: Mother & Child Meg travelled to Senegal, West Africa with fellow photographer Ken Duncan. “We were there from dawn to dusk,” Hansen says, which allowed them to become involved without “walking in like you’re the saviour”. This allowed Hansen to get the best shots of the people in Senegal’s communities. “You can’t just walk in and start photographing because you’re not going to get the best out of people unless you have a relationship with them. The most important thing for me was to spend a significant amount of time connecting with the people before I started shooting them.” The women’s backstories accompany many of the photographs in the book but for Hansen it was important that the images be powerful enough to standalone. One of Hansen’s shots was chosen as the book’s cover image, though no story accompanies this potent image. “She’s silhouetted against this barren landscape and it shows what she’s fighting against. She’s so small in a barren, awful world that’s threatening her and her children.” Though the bond between mother and child is undoubtedly universal, what differentiates parenting in privileged countries as opposed to the Third World, is priorities. Concerns about what school our children attend and what after school activities they do are at complete odds with the quest to survive in developing countries. “To me, the women are so strong and resilient and so full of guts that we don’t have,” Hansen says. One young mother particularly affected Hansen. “There was this one 15-year-old girl we spoke to who had an 18-month-old baby who had malnutrition; I don’t know if she’d still be alive today, nothing seemed to be working for her. We asked her what her hopes and dreams were for her baby, because that’s something that everyone in the Western world talks about, and she said, ‘I just hope she lives until tomorrow’. As a mother over there, it’s about survival, whereas here it’s about lifestyle.” Having her own sons, who are around the same age as some of the mothers, hit close to home for Hansen. “You just think, ‘Wow’. It’s just about where you turn up when you’re born, that’s fate.” Hansen’s boys have spent more than their fair share of time in front of their mother’s lens. She laughs when asked about the difference between shooting them as opposed to other people. “Doing your own kids can be tricky because they’ve probably been yelled at before. Everyone always says I’m incredibly patient and how well I deal with little kids, whereas with mine I’m like, ‘Come on! Do this, do that.’ But it’s great. It’s been really important to me to document their lives at certain times.” The other photographers chosen by Ken Duncan (who, along with accompanying Meg to Senegal, also shot images in India) to shoot for the book were Luke Peterson, who photographed indigenous Australians in Pilbara, Western Australia and Steve Fraser who went to Bolivia and Ecuador. The communities the photographers visited are places where World Vision has initiated various projects. Some of the organisation’s work involves community-based projects that educate and empower women to become less dependent on others. “It’s just really simple things World Vision is trying to teach them, the basics which empower women within the community. What I was wanting to portray is that our lives are very much the same but divided by poverty and no opportunity.” Vision of Hope: Mother & Child ($59.95 standard or $159.95 special edition) is available online through visionofhope.com.au or calling 13 32 40. Proceeds from the book go towards World Vision’s development work around the world.